Dr. Jacqueline Uku, WIOMSA President, says it herself: “IRD has been a good friend, for a very long time.” The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association indeed has extensive links with IRD in the region and offers a great support to marine researchers.
With more than 1000 individual members and 50 institutional members, the Zanzibar-based association exercise a significant coordination and networking role in all aspects of coastal and marine sciences. “We are here to bring the scientists of different countries together, promote multidisciplinarity and facilitate the implementation of ambitious marine science projects.” said Dr. Uku. No less than 10 countries are members of the association.
IRD researchers working in the Indian Ocean collaborate closely with WIOMSA, first through projects funded by the association research grants, such as the MOZALINK project?Linking marine science, traditional knowledge and cultural perceptions of the sea in the Mozambique Channel carried out from 2013 to 2016. WIOMSA has also taken part in the new DiDEM?Dialogue science-Décideurs pour une gestion intégrée des Environnements littoraux et Marins (DiDEM) regional project from its conception to its current implementation. IRD scientists find in WIOMSA a great tool to build and grow a scientific network and to coordinate regional multidisciplinary projects. “IRD scientists take part in key governance organs in the association as members of the board and of two grant programme committees,” mentioned Dr Julius Francis, Executive Secretary for the last 18 years, who has been a strong pillar of WIOMSA and has provided astute leadership and shaped the association into what it is today from its humble beginnings.
Moreover, dozens of scientists travel to the biennial symposium. IRD and WIOMSA also jointly participate in events such as the Sustainable Blue Economy conference, in Kenya, in November 2018 where they jointly supported the side event by Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute on Harnessing Full Potential of Blue Economy through Research and Innovation. At the UN ocean conference in 2017, they presented a joint voluntary commitment: “Increasing the awareness of children for the sustainable use of coral reefs and their resources in the South-West Indian Ocean”.
Dr Pascale Chabanet, IRD director in Reunion Island, praises the privileged relationship IRD keeps with WIOMSA: “Both organizations have a shared objective: working together to preserve marine and coastal ecosystems and ensure their sustainable use in the Western Indian Ocean. Our 5 representative offices in the area and our scientists work closely with WIOMSA to help each other reach this objective.”
Visibility and awareness
“One of our goals is to reach different audiences, to enhance the visibility of science and to show its impact on the populations and on the environment,” said Dr Uku. IRD and WIOMSA regularly co-produce movies and documentaries to present their work and its impact on people. The most recent one is dedicated to the Mozambique Channel resources and coastal populations. The MARECO project, led by IRD with many partners including WIOMSA, is another example of the priority given to public awareness. MARECO is a kit designed to develop children’s knowledge of the sustainable use of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and the threats they face.
Pascale Chabanet is grateful for the help she received from WIOMSA: “I had the opportunity to build a fruitful network with colleagues of different countries bordering the Indian Ocean, mainly thanks to WIOMSA. I participated in projects funded by the association and I was a member of the board from 2009 to 2017. I am also part of the Women in Marine Science network. WIOMSA has accompanied me throughout my career as a scientist and supported my desire to work with countries of the South and to strengthen the role women play in our society.”